I recently communicated with Nathalia Ziemkiewicz, a writer/reporter for Yahoo Brazil (and several other noteworthy publications).
Nathalia was interested in everything from my evolving views on porn as it relates to my (also evolving) feminist standpoint, ideas about addiction, porn as sex education, and so much more. And because I am unable to write in Portuguese, Nathalia translated my words and presented them to the Yahoo world right –> here
Check out “‘A sociedade é contraditória: consome e rejeita o pornô,’ diz socióloga” on Yahoo Brazil (2/10/16) and/or read the entire interview (in English) below.
NZ/YahooBr: As you write in your book, there are some premises about pornography: “porn hurts, porn harms, porn is a heterosexist tool for destroying women and strengthening patriarchy through capitalism.” Before your research, did you used to think like that – especially considering your feminist view? What has changed your mind?
DrCT: I absolutely used to think like that. Especially when I was younger, that was really the only narrative about porn ever publicized, or at least with very rare exception. The thing that started to change my perspective was taking the time to learn more about the industry as a community and actually speak to people involved. I started to realize that, though porn is not for everyone (as a consumer and as a career), there are multiple ways of looking at things and that variability must be considered.
Also, as I got more and more experienced as a researcher, I started to see a lot of glaringly obvious errors in much of the “scholarship” that had been done about porn. It seemed like people’s acceptance of the sex-negative narrative somehow corresponded with not calling out methodologically unsound work. (I’m kidding here, but only slightly)
NZ/YahooBr: Our society seems contradictory: we consume and reject porn. How do you explain that?
DrCT: If I knew that answer to that, all our problems would be solved! It’s interesting though that our love/hate relationship with porn is global. Though it varies in intensity, this dynamic is ubiquitous across different cultures and social structures. The universal nature of this pattern is very compelling.
(pictured: image via Yahoo Brazil)
NZ/YahooBr: Some researchers show a huge number of violence in porn scenes: slaps, chokes, submission… And their conclusions are that those sexual behaviors influence people, making them more violent in real sex. Do you agree?
DrCT: There have actually been no rigorous studies that prove a direct connection between watching sexual violence and subsequently engaging in sexual violence as a result of viewing. I think one root issue with this – saying “violent” porn leads to sexual violence – in addition to issues related to methodologically flawed agenda-driven “scholarship,” is the concept of violence itself. Or, what isn’t violence. Consensual rough sex is not violence, even if that consensual rough sex looks more intense than a viewer feels comfortable with or would want to engage in themselves. These differing notions point to vast variability in the forms of sexual expression humans are comfortable with. But it’s important to remember that, as long as consent is established and maintained, there is no one universal “correct” way to have sex.
NZ/YahooBr: Would you say that mainstream porn is usually to satisfy men’s fantasies? Many women just doesn’t feel excited about it – Erika Lust, for example, is becoming very known for presenting films for them.
DrCT: It’s difficult to say with any degree of accuracy who porn is for – whose fantasies it’s intended to satisfy and whose fantasies it actually connects with. There is such as high degree of variety and variability within porn, even within sub-genres of porn – not all MILF films are the same, not all BDSM films are the same, etc. And amongst viewers, there is also so much variability in taste and preference. As such, to flip an extremely tedious stereotype on its head, some women really enjoy viewing very hardcore and/or “mainstream” content, and some men enjoy the artistic, romantic narratives presented by producers like Erika Lust.
Unfortunately though, our unfamiliarity with the scope and breadth of content, as well as those incomplete oft-touted narratives I was discussing earlier, contribute to a popular “understanding” of what porn is and who it’s for. Add to that the high degree of sexual shame and stigmatization that continues to exist in our society, a phenomenon that encourages people to — for example — watch stolen content on piracy based tube sites, which themselves only showcase a very limited scope of what porn is, and you get a phenomenon where what is discussed, what is actually done, and what is desired are very disconnected.
NZ/YahooBr: I get worried after every lecture I do for schools. For example, many students (from 13 to 17 years old) assume they watch porn and have no other references about sex. Their questions are like: “My penis has 13 cm, it’s much smaller than everyone’s penises! Do you think I can satisfy a girl?” OR “Why women like having men come on their faces?” OR “I’ve never had an orgasm like those women – do I have some health issue?” Don’t you think it’s very dangerous when pornography becomes their teachers and causes them confusion/distress?
DrCT: It’s absolutely unhealthy and inappropriate for young people (and adults) to use porn as a sex education tool. Though there are a small number of adult instructional videos (films made by sex educators with hardcore sex included as demonstration) being produced, the vast majority of porn is made for fantasy fulfillment and entertainment – just like every other movie out there. It is not intended as a teaching tool, and never claims to be.
The problem then is not porn, per se, it’s the misappropriated use of porn. This speaks to a litany of social issues – poor sex education, parental issues, wider social stigma that makes it impossible to discuss sex openly in a manner that doesn’t shame or ostracize people, etc. So people, who are inherently sexual in some way and are looking for answers, gravitate to the one place that’s easily accessible that they think will have the answers. It’s a cycle that’s complex and, unfortunately, seems to be getting worse.
NZ/YahooBr: Real world influences porn films, or porn films influences the real world?
DrCT: Both. Porn responds to market influences and cultural cues to create content, and society responds to images and themes in porn. It’s a synergistic relationship. Porn is a part of society, not an isolated bubble. Porn is made by people who are parents and friends and neighbors, etc, and is consumed by people who are also parents and friends and neighbors. People make and watch porn. As a result, adult entertainment is a very interesting (and sometimes difficult) reflection of what we are as a society and community.
NZ/YahooBr: On the other hand, how do you think porn can be very helpful for warming up couples and develop our sexual fantasies alone too?
DrCT: Porn can absolutely be helpful for couples, as well as people alone. Porn is not for everyone, but it is for many people. Many people get a lot of enjoyment out of adult content. It gives a lot of people access to sex that they may not be able to get otherwise and can also help people make connections with others.
NZ/YahooBr: Does porn makes people addicted?
DrCT: No. Physiologically speaking, the addiction response includes a diminished response to whatever one’s addicted to – that’s why someone has to take or do more of the addictive substance. It loses response potency as one becomes addicted, thus the need for more and more. But with porn, the brain stimulation response does not decrease. Put simply, porn consumption does not take people down the “addiction” pathway, physiologically. But this is not to say some people do not struggle with issues that lend themselves to increased or unregulated porn consumption. Loneliness and social isolation, for example, have been speculated to be contributing factors. So it’s not to say that some people don’t have difficulties managing their porn use, it’s just not addictive in a physiological sense.
NZ/YahooBr: How many porn films you watched for your research? Anything still shocks you or make you feel uncomfortable – and what?
DrCT: There is no way to even guesstimate the total amount of content I’ve watched at this point – over ten years worth of looking at films, scenes, web content, and live content. “A lot more than your average person” is my best guess! In terms of professionally produced content, there’s not much that’s really surprising anymore. There are certain depictions that I don’t care for personally, but that’s just a matter of taste, not because there is something amiss with specific acts.
NZ/YahooBr: Can you describe one of the funny moments of being in a film set? Or the way you have felt for your first time? It’s interesting that these situations had become tedious for you…
DrCT: There are several funny on set and industry event moments described in Exposure some pretty silly stories for sure!
(pictured: Exposure is awesome)
NZ/YahooBr: Do you like to watch porn? I mean, not as a sociologist.
DrCT: There is some content that I like more than other genres or depictions, directors I like, etc. But after so many years and knowing so many people involved in the creative process, what I “see” in porn is less about sexual stimulation and more about a person’s work. I can evaluate and critique it, but like any sort of performance, the “awe” factor diminishes as you learn more and more about what’s behind the scenes. I’m ok with the trade off though!
I was delighted to do this interview with Nathalia for Yahoo Brazil (and I was super delighted to be translated into Portuguese!) — What do you think?
(pictured: get Exposure here)
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Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com